PR Myth Busting Part 3: More ≠ Better



Posted: In: Blogs Musings

So, now that we can all agree that failure is really a commitment to learning (Part 1) and every PR output can be the beginning of a conversation (Part 2), let’s turn our attention to an often contentious topic: PR reporting.

Ah, reporting. Depending on your PR point of view, you probably either LOVE reporting or it’s the bane of your existence. Which is fully understandable given that the data PR pros need to report on often lives in 15 different places and executives rarely seem deeply invested in legacy PR metrics.

I know PR wants their work to be given the same weight and respect as other pieces of the communication puzzle (I’m looking at you, Marketing), yet the metrics used across the industry don’t do squat for PR’s reputation with the C-Suite.

Seriously though, when was the last time you heard a CMO extol the virtue of impressions?

Senior leaders sincerely struggle to understand what PR is doing for their companies. But as companies and executives put more emphasis on data-driven results and strategies, meaningful measurement is a more important aspect of PR than ever.

Yet resistance, combined with archaic metrics, holds public relations back. Which is a real bummer because a widespread shift in measurement thinking would likely position PR as one of the most powerful drivers of meaningful business results.

Part of the “pain” is understanding what metrics actually matter. The bottom line is that it’s no longer good enough to report on impressions, headline views, and AVEs. While these metrics are well and good “activity-based metrics”, they do nothing to help PR understand what’s working or what to do next.

And as Katie Delahaye Paine astutely stated:

But because these old school metrics are often VERY BIG, impressive sounding figures, PR has latched on to them and is very reticent to let them go. Often people don’t understand that sometimes bigger numbers aren’t always better. Which brings me to my final myth…

Myth #3: More = Better

PR may have played the numbers game in years past, but in today’s business landscape quantity is not the gold standard anymore. The real challenge is getting PR pros to let go of their fear and doubt around new types of data.

You may think 100,000 impressions sounds better than 100 visitors to site, but 100,000 impressions cuts you off at the knees. Impressions are merely the number of opportunities you have to be seen, not what was actually seen.

Those 100 visitors clearly indicate the content, outlet, or journalist that compelled readers to your digital ecosystem where the probability of capturing them as a prospect exponentially increases. Impressions don’t necessarily mean anything to your CEO, but the number of people who came to your site and took action does.

Now, I will be the first to admit this is not an easy chasm to cross. Even when PR peeps fully acknowledge how underwhelming current PR metrics are, they still worry that new data won’t be useful or make them look good. Which really reveals deep seeded doubt in themselves and the value they bring to their organization.

But here’s the truth: If you are happy with the status quo and desire a career where you are a firefighter who is always last to know, first to blame, then by all means keep reporting on activity metrics like impressions and AVEs.

However, if you want to be a PR leader of tomorrow, then it’s time to squelch those data fears and embrace a quality-over-quantity, content-specific measurement mindset.

Our information-rich environment implores us to continually evaluate which pieces of media or content properly convey key messages, reach our desired audiences, generate top-of-funnel business leads, and ladder up to business goals.

If you’re not focusing on those KPIs, don’t expect to have a seat at the table or a voice in the conversation.

Because the industry is making moves and data is in the driver’s seat.